What Do We Know about the Church?
The church in the Bible is always people. Jesus Himself promised to build His church. In Matthew 16:13-18 we read, "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." If you have read your Bible you have read about the church of Christ. The church of Christ exists anywhere people follow the Bible and the Bible only. (Acts 2:38-47)
In the New Testament the word church describes an assembly. It might just be a common assembly as describe in Acts 19:32. "Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together." The word is also the same in Acts 19:39. "But if ye enquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly." The word was also used to refer to the Jews in the wilderness. "This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us." (Acts 7:38) The term church is also used to refer to Christians. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Paul wrote, "If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church." (1 Corinthians 6:4)
Sometimes the term church is used to describe all the Christians. In Hebrews 12:23 we read, "To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect." A particular church or body of believers that met at a certain place may also be described with the word “church.” 1 Corinthians 1:2 reads, "Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." The church of Christ or the New Testament church was (1) Called by the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14), (2) Grafted into Christ by baptism (Galatians 3:26-27), (3) Made alive by the love of God (1 Corinthians 15:22), (4) United in a deep fellowship with other Christians (Acts 2:42), and (5) Molded into the image of Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
We know that the church in the Bible is saved people. The church in the Bible was paid for by the blood of Christ. "...feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28) God's church is those "people" that were purchased with Christ's blood. The church was never a physical building nor was it a denomination. Christ died to purchase and cleanse the church. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." (Ephesians 5:25) Christ is the Savior of the church. "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." (Ephesians 5:23) If a person is saved he is a member of the blood bought church of Christ. Salvation and membership in Christ's church is the same thing. The church of the Bible is not a denomination. It is, in fact, the house of God. "But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." (Hebrews 3:6) The Lord's church is that house over which Christ is head. The church in the Bible is saved people. When Saul put Christian men and women in prison he was making havoc of the church. (Acts 8:3) God adds the saved, and only the saved, to the church. "...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts 2:47) Are you a member of the church you can read about in the New Testament? Salvation and membership in the church of Christ is the same thing. You are not saved outside of the church.
We know that Jesus promised to build His church and He built it. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus made two great promises concerning His church. He promised that He would both build and preserve His church. "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Jesus promised to build His church and He kept this promise on the day of Pentecost following His resurrection from the dead. The church was established about 33 AD on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:1) From the beginning there was only one way to be a member of the church. Those that were saved are the people that had obeyed the gospel of Christ. To be saved people heard the gospel (Romans 10:17), believed in Jesus as the Christ (John 8:24), repented of sins (Acts 17:30), confessed Jesus as the Christ (Romans 10:10), and were baptized for remission of sins. (Acts 2:38) On the day the church had its beginning three thousand believers were baptized in water for salvation. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41) The Lord added these three thousand saved people to the church. Are you a member of the same church to which these people were added?
We know that there are certain Bible traits that identify the church. A car can be identified by certain traits or identifying marks. The traits of Christ's church, given in the Bible, make it possible for us to identify it in the world today. Any church without the Bible traits of Christ's church is not His. Let us observe some of these traits: Jesus is its founder and owner. (Matthew 16:18) He purchased the church with His own blood. (Acts 20:28) Jesus is the foundation for the church. "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11) He is also its head. "...And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Ephesians 1:22-23) The New Testament church started at the right time (Pentecost). (Acts 2:1) It also started at the right place (Jerusalem). "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven." (Acts 2:5) No one is allowed to join this church. Those that obey the gospel are added to the Lord's church. "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts 2:47) Jesus has all authority over the church. "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Matthew 28:18) He guides His church by the Bible and the Bible only. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Have you taken time to identify the church in the Bible? Are you a member of the one Bible church?
We know that the church that Christ built exists today. Jesus is not just one savior among many. He is the only Savior. The Bible is not just one book among many. It is the only book. The church of Christ is not just one church among many. It is the only church. Jesus promised to build and preserve His church. "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18) Since He kept His word His church is in the world today. The church is produced through preaching the gospel. The gospel is God's power to save. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:16) The gospel is the seed of the kingdom. (Luke 8:11) If you plant only one type seed you will reap only one type of harvest. The Bible is the seed of the kingdom. When only the Bible is planted, then only Christ's church will be produced. This is true because the gospel is the "word of the kingdom." (Matthew 13:19) Let us come to love what Jesus loved. He loved the church with a sacrificial love. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it." (Ephesians 5:25) Jesus adds the saved to the church. "Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts 2:47) If you will do what the Bible teaches, the Lord will save you and add you to His church. Are you a member of the church of Christ, the one true church?
Those that obey the gospel of Christ are saved and added by the Lord to His church. When one becomes a Christian he is added to the church. To become a Christian you must hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus (John 8:24), repent of sins (Acts 17:30), confess Christ as Lord (Acts 8:37), and be baptized to be saved. (1 Peter 3:21) After your baptism serve the Lord as a faithful member of the church. (Revelation 2:10)
By Charles Box, Walnut Street Church of Christ, P.O. Box 551, Greenville, Alabama 36037 USA